Pensions and self-employment

Updated on 30 April 2018

This section looks briefly at some of the main types of pension that you may be able to have. If you want more information on any of them, we suggest you go to our ‘tax basics section’.

Pensions for the self-employed

Pensions are attracting more attention in the media as people are living longer.

Most employers are now obliged to have a minimum level pension scheme in place for employees aged 22 and over who earn more than £10,000 per year under the 'auto-enrolment' rules.

As there is no such requirement for the self-employed, you may well choose to make provision for yourself.

Growth on your pension savings is generally free of tax. When pensions are paid out to you they are taxable, but you should be able to take some part of the pension as a tax free lump sum.

We cannot advise you as to which type of scheme might be best for you. We cannot advise on whether or not you should pay into a particular pension.

We recommend that you get some financial advice, for example from an independent financial adviser (IFA).

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What are the different types of pension scheme?

What is the state pension?

The Government pays the state pension as a regular payment to eligible people who have reached state pension age. You can work out when you will reach state pension age by using the calculator on the GOV.UK website.

If you reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2016, you will fall under the flat rate state pension, known as the new state pension.

If you are self-employed, paying class 2 National Insurance contributions (NIC) helps you to qualify to receive the state pension.

There is more information about the basic state pension and the new state pension in our ‘tax basics section’.

What are stakeholder an personal pensions?

A personal pension plan is a way of saving regularly for your retirement. You can set one up yourself and invest in it personally. The funds in the scheme are invested to pay your pension when you retire. You can get a personal pension or stakeholder pension (which is a specific kind of personal pension) from financial services companies such as insurance companies, bank and building societies (known as 'providers').

Depending on the type of investment there may also be some charges you will have to pay to the pension provider out of the amount you pay  in.

There is more information about stakeholder and personal pensions in our ‘tax basics section’.

What are retirement annuity schemes?

If you took out a pension policy before 1 July 1988 this would have been called a retirement annuity policy. 

There is more information about retirement annuity schemes in our 'tax basics section'.

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What are the rules for paying into pensions?

Providing your pension scheme provider agrees, there is no limit on the amount you can put into your pension although the tax relief you can get may be limited.

You can also save in more than one pension scheme at the same time, for example in two different personal pension schemes; or if you are self-employed and also employed you can save in your personal pension scheme as well as in your employers occupational or group personal pension scheme.

For more information on the rules for pension contributions, including tax relief and the annual and lifetime allowances, go to the ‘tax basics section’.

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What tax relief can I get on payments?

You can get tax relief on contributions of up to 100% of your UK earnings if you are a UK taxpayer, subject to the 'annual allowance' (see below).

Most pension payments receive tax relief at source, such as those into personal pension schemes outlined above.

If you do not get tax relief at source when making the payments, you must claim it through your self assessment tax return or by making a claim to HMRC by telephone or letter. You can find contact details for HMRC on the GOV.UK website

For more information on tax relief on pension contributions go to the 'tax basics section'.

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What is the maximum amount I can pay into my pension in any tax year?

For information on the annual and lifetime allowances, go to the ‘tax basics section’.

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When can I take my private pension?

Generally, the earliest you can take your personal pension is at age 55.

More information on the rules for taking pensions is given in our 'pensioner section'.

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Where can I find more information?

See our ‘tax basics section’ for a list of more sources of information.

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